Retail sales picked up in November, delivering a short respite from the pressures of Brexit, reports BRC-KPMG in its latest Retail Sales Monitor. However, the monitor's November figures were negatively distorted by the lateness of Black Friday, 

Total sales decreased by -4.4% in November, against an increase of +0.5% in November 2018. Adjusted to take Black Friday into account, they increased +0.9% YoY.

On a LFL basis, they decined by -4.9% YoY – but increased +0.4% when including Black Friday's performance.

Furniture achieved the second-best online growth of the product categories (from fourth in 2018).

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson OBE says: “Once the figures are adjusted to take account of the timing of Black Friday, growth appears stronger in November than in previous months. Shoppers appeared ready to take advantage of the great bargains available, both online and on the high street. Electronics and clothes both benefited from big discounts, with the recent cold snap adding further urgency to purchases of winter wear. Furthermore, as the spectre of a no-deal Brexit has been pushed back to after Christmas, consumers were more prepared to open their wallets to a little extra festive spending."

Paul Martin, UK head of retail, KPMG, adds: “At first glance, November’s decline in LFL retail sales of -4.9% will leave retailers reaching for the smelling salts, but context is key. If adjusted for the later timing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, sales are more likely to have increased by a more palatable +0.4% LFL. 

“Over the course of November, consumers will have held off making purchases in anticipation of discounts to come, despite many retailers spreading out promotions across several days, if not weeks. That said, consumers will also have put Brexit and political uncertainty to one side temporarily, focusing on promotions and the upcoming festivities instead.

“The key question will be whether demand can rebound enough to make up for several disappointing months of trading this year. Grocers are likely to have weathered the storm better than most but Black Friday is key to many non-food categories. Retailers have their foot to the floor during this critical trading period, but it won’t be until Christmas trading reports land in January that we’ll truly know whether their strategies have proved fruitful.”